"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; if ye keep my command- ments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in these things, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." - John 15:9-11
It is Paul who makes the connection between Love and the Holy Spirit overt:
"And now abideth Faith, Hope and Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love." - 1st Corinthians 13: 13
It is a favourite device of the New Testament writers to refer to the Trinity in veiled terms through the use of three parallel words. Here Paul equates the Father with Faith (we have Faith in the Father because we cannot see or feel him), Hope with the Son (who gives us the message of the future) but we Love through the Holy Spirit. Thus Love in the guise of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit in the guise of Love which completes the drama of the Incarnation, pervading everything, uniting us with each other and with the Divine:
"No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." - 1st John 4:12-13
Thus just as the great Kabbalists understood the role humanity had to play with God in healing the Universe, the great Christian Scribes of the New Testament understood how the energy of Love provided the perfecting connection to be made between God and all Creation. The great Beguine Mystic Marguerite Porete, drawing upon the ideas of Augustine, took this to its most sublime conclusion when she wrote that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were to be understood as 'the Lover, the Loved and Love':
"Beloved, what do you wish from Me?
I contain all things which were,
And are, and shall be,
I am filled with all things.
Take from me all which pleases you:
If you desire from me all things, I will not deny.
Say, beloved, what do you wish from me?
I am Love, filled with the goodness of all things:
What you will, we will.
Beloved, tell us plainly your will."
- Marguerite Porete: The Mirror Of Simple Souls.
So Love and the Holy Spirit prepare us for the final chapter of John's account of the Last Supper, the great threnody to God from Christ, unsurpassed anywhere else in the Gospels. Everything is coming to a head. The Divine connection has been made between Christ and the Godhead. The most sustained communication with the Divine in the whole of the New Testament is about to unfold. If John's Last Supper is not already Mystical, it goes way beyond the boundaries here, as ideas of Man and God, Time and Reality, Gnosis and Faith merge into one.
The Chapter starts with a continuation of the process of Glorification mentioned before. As the 'circuit' is established in the first Chapter with Judas' exit, it is continued and intensified here. As Christ speaks directly to God, the language of the lines becomes pregnant with meaning, as if something is being channelled from on high, the Divine Energy being passed on to the Disciples. In so doing, something of Christ's Cosmic Nature slips through:
"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorfied thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was." - John 17:1-5
That last line in particular is fascinating. It bends time, revealing Christ's nature as an expression of the Logos as being continuous across Time. In the wording is an echo of the words of the Sophia in the Book of Proverbs:
"The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was... Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." - Proverbs 8:22-23 & 30
Some theologians equate the Logos of the opening passage of the Gospel of John with the Sophia as well as Christ, seeing the process of Creation as being an interplay between the male and female energies of God, the Sophia becoming a hypostasis with the Trinity. For the Gnostics, this was doubly so, with the Sophia and Christ being Syzygies of each other, or two parts of t the same entity. Whatever the case, there seems to be a Sophianic echo in these words, and a stronger revelation of the pre-existence of Christ. This is, of course, not the only place that this occurs in John's Gospel. There is also the cryptic discussion in Chapter 8:
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." - John 8:56-58
The inference here is that Christ as Logos appeared in some way to Abraham, perhaps as Melchizedek, as some commentators argue or as the 'three men' of Chapter 18 of Genesis. Whatever the case, there is a little timebending going on, just as there is in the description of the Trinity which begins Revelations:
"Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is (the Son), which was (the Father) and which is to come (Holy Spirit)". - Revelations 1:4
We are being encouraged to think 'eternally', or non-linearly in terms of Time. Past, present and future are being seen as one. And as Christ's nature is potentially our own, as we shall see, it is being revealed that this non-temporal state is also ours.
A significant line in the passage quoted above ("And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.") reveals the essential Mystical/Gnostic element of the Christ message. Indeed, it is in this Chapter that we can understand why the Gnostic Christians valued John's writings so highly. For when Christ refers to 'knowing' God, he is referring to the Gnosis, the 'Knowledge' of God which was so prized by the Gnostics and so denied by the traditional Christians, who placed Faith as the primary source of Christian experience. If Christ is not talking about the Gnosis here, then what does he mean by:
"O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." - John 17:25
And indeed this is where the Gnostic and non-Gnostic interpretations of Christianity should come together, contained in these central statements of Christ's doctrines. Christ speaks at length about "he that believeth in me" being rewarded, but without the 'Knowledge' of the Gnosis, which presumably lies behind the whole Incarnation, the Christ Message is pointless. Church teaching has always been about waiting until after death for the Beatific Vision of God. Here in John's Gospel, this is directly contradicted. Faith and Knowledge must come together to create the Union with God which is the centre of the Gospel message.
As Christ exhorts the Father, he brings in another element of the process of Theosis, the Name and the Word. As the Glorification continues, everything becomes about transmission of energy from the Father through the Son, onwards to the Apostles and, by extension, to all who come after. The ultimate end of this process is a relationship with each other which is identical to that of Christ with the Father:
"I have manifested my name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them mel and they have kept thy word. Now they have also known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and they have known surely that I came out from thee, and they believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine: and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one." - John 17:6-11
"That they may be one, as we are one" - what more Mystical a statement could there be? While Catholic and Protestant teaching has put a gulf between human experience and God, John compares the possible experience of the Disciples, and by extension us, as being exactly like that between Christ and the Father. So we see how the Christ Nature is potentially our own. John is not alone in this vision, of course. In Matthew Christ says "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), suggesting a state of perfection available to humans the same as that enjoyed by God. Once again, the radical nature of the Christ Message emerges. This is what Meister Eckhardt meant when he said that "The first fruit of the Incarnation of Christ, God's Son, is that man may become what the Son is by nature". Further, through the connection between Christ and his followers Christ is himself 'Glorified', just as he 'Glorifies' God and vice versa. Spiritual channels are being opened up between the Father, the Son and all humanity in which all become 'ensouled'. The image of Unification is absolutely clear. And in a passage quoted in an earlier post it is overtly described in terms of an inheritance, passed down through generations of followers from the moment of the Last Supper onwards:
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." - John 17:20-23
Again we have that word 'perfect', the term given to the Cathar leadership (Parfait/Perfecti). Surely it refers to a state of Wholeness, of completion in the Spirit, the Healing the Soter/Saviour has come to do. Wholeness and Unity - these are the key elements of these words, a Wholeness and Unity which combine Love, Truth, Gnosis, Faith and the Holy Spirit, all merged into a Union with the Father and the Son which is both within and outside Time. Of these qualities, it is Love which is the most important, and it is with this that John's description of the Last Supper, with all its Mysteries ends:
"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and in them." - John 17:26
Once more we learn of the indwelling of Love and Christ in us. There is no separation, no conditions, not even much talk of sin and very little of any kind of intermediary between humanity and the Divine.
These, then, are the Mysteries of the Last Supper, recorded at length by John. Their complexities are subtle and neverending, but lie at the heart of the energetic life of Christianity. It is no wonder, perhaps, that this Gospel out of the four has most appealed to the Mystics, whether heretical or orthodox. It expresses a grass-roots spirituality which, far from being anti-human, is profoundly humanist. The issue of what the Churches have made of this message, how it has been obscured, misunderstood, confused, ignored, denied and, let's face it, often violently suppressed, are the subject for another time. For now we may be grateful that with all the revisions and changes made to the New Testament over the centuries, somehow the Gospel of John has made it through with its greatest words more or less intact. Perhaps their obscurity has not helped, but that is the way with Mysticism, although one could also argue that their obscurity is how they have been able to survive the scrutiny of those who would happily keep us all in a spiritual prison and throw away the key. There is no concept of Original Sin here, just a description of a spiritual inheritance available to all, whether the historic expression of Christianity in our world understands it or not.
And in the hope that one can keep hold of the Spiritual Baby while throwing out two thousand years of stinking bathwater, this analysis of John's account of the Last Supper comes to an end...